Monday, 13 July 2015

Rural nursing students receive study bursary

Study help: nursing students (left to right at front) Rhianan Bale, Gabrielle Miller and Mieke Polman-Short with members of the McArdle family and staff of the School of Rural Health

Three Monash University nursing students from West Gippsland have received the Tim McArdle memorial bursary to support their studies.

The bursary was set up after Dr McArdle, a highly respected local GP in the West Gippsland region, was killed in a cycling accident near Warragul in 2002. A graduate of Monash, Dr McArdle also taught and mentored local medical students over many years.

Following Dr McArdle’s tragic death, a bursary fund was established in an effort to honour the GP’s outstanding contribution to the Gippsland community. It is administered by a local committee, including School of Rural Health (SRH) Latrobe Valley & West Gippsland Director, Associate Professor Dr Joseph Tam, in conjunction with the Monash University Medical Fund.

The 2015 bursary recipients, Gabrielle Miller of Crossover, Mieke Polman-Short of Mountain View and Rhiannan Bale of Warragul, received $3000 each. Mieke and Gabrielle are studying Bachelor of Nursing, while Rhiannon is studying Bachelor of Nursing and Midwifery.

The bursaries were presented at a recent ceremony attended by members of the McArdle family and representatives of the Monash SRH Latrobe Valley & West Gippsland.

Dr Cathy Haig, Deputy Director of the SRH Latrobe Valley & West Gippsland, told the audience that the bursary was “a tremendous legacy to a doctor who was held in such high esteem”.

Commenting on the strong relationship the university has with Gippsland, Dr Haigh outlined the work of the SRH clinical schools at Latrobe Regional Hospital in Traralgon and West Gippsland Hospital in Warragul. She said students trained at the hospitals as well as being placed at local medical practices including the West Gippsland Medical Centre, where Dr McArdle practised.

“It is hoped some of these Undergraduate students will continue to return to Gippsland after graduating,” she said.

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Mental Health Vacation School offers “light bulb” moments

If past experiences are any guide, there will be plenty of ‘light bulb’ moments for nursing and allied health students next week as a group of twelve, from outside this region, take part in Monash University’s Gippsland Mental Health Vacation School (13-17 July).

The unique program, which evolved from the Monash School of Rural Health’s Department of Rural and Indigenous Health, is underpinned by a commitment to increasing the numbers of mental health professionals in Gippsland. Over the period of a week it introduces third and fourth year students – from nursing, psychology, social work, occupational therapy and speech pathology – to employment opportunities and professional work being undertaken in the region, and promotes the benefits of living and working locally.

The vacation school – which commenced in 2010 - is the product of a fruitful partnership between the SRH Department of Rural and Indigenous Health and Gippsland’s mental health service providers.

SRH Lecturer Keith Sutton said students from a range of institutions including Monash, the Universities of Melbourne and New England, Deakin and Swinburne, would spend the week visiting numerous Gippsland services which “all fall under the umbrella of behavioural health services” but vary in their nature.

“Services the students will visit include clinical and non-clinical organisations, alcohol and drug services and organisations such as Headspace and the Gippsland Centre Against Sexual Assault,” Mr Sutton said.

“We enjoy fantastic support from over 18 Gippsland organisations and when we approached them to be involved again this year, they all said yes.”

The program is the only one of its kind in Australia and, at its core, seeks to redress the imbalance in the proportion of mental health professionals working in rural and remote areas compared with metropolitan areas.

“The approach which has generally been relied upon is having students undertake placements in rural and regional areas but we know that there are low numbers of allied health workers taking up these opportunities so we developed a clear strategy around focusing on a short period of time and minimising the costs for students to participate, while also building in some social events and local outings,” Mr Sutton said.

The program aims to add an extra dimension to students’ existing courses and is careful to avoid duplication.

The testimonies of past participants, coupled with early indications from a longitudinal research program tracking students after their time in the program, suggest SRH Department of Rural and Indigenous Health is on the right track.
Former participant Matthew Jackman said his vacation school experience had been “inspiring” and shown him “there are great opportunities for innovation and creativity within a rural context”.

Firdous said she appreciated “exposure to the cross-cultural aspect” of the program, particularly the opportunity to visit Indigenous organisations and “watch them working on the ground.”

Rachael Humphries found her time in Gippsland “really helpful to experience how it would be to adjust to rural life.”

A critical component of the Gippsland Mental Health Vacation School is the continued connections SRH maintains with participants, usually through social media processes.

“We continue to feed these students information about employment opportunities in the region and other things that are happening in the field,” Mr Sutton said.

Research on the program’s longer-term impact is in its early stages but Mr Sutton said “we do know that exposure to the program, regardless of the student’s background – whether it is rural or metropolitan – has a positive effect on their perceptions of working rurally and of rural mental health work.”

The program has been inundated with applications this year and, in response, SRH will offer another intake over the summer months.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Study to identify what helps rural mothers manage mental health difficulties

A Monash University study is looking for participants to find out what factors contribute to helping rural women with children manage mental health difficulties and get better.

Warrnambool-based researcher and social worker, Rochelle Hine, said that the study aims to contribute to changes in support services so they harness successful factors.

“Parenting is a tough job for anyone, especially if you’ve experienced mental health difficulties as well,” said Ms Hine.

“Nearly one in four Victorian children live with a parent who has experienced mental health difficulties.

“And, while women in rural areas can face particular challenges, they may also have strong social connections that help them manage.

“We’d like to hear from mothers in the Warrnambool and Ballarat districts about what has helped them manage mental health difficulties whether that’s personal strategies or social networks and connections.”

Ms Hine hopes that the outcome of the study will be changes in mental health and community services to support factors shown to be effective.

“If we can identify the strategies and social support mechanisms that women use to manage mental health difficulties and their parenting role, community and family services can promote those factors to support women to get better,” said Ms Hines.

A social worker with many years’ experience in the mental health field, and a mother of four herself, Ms Hines has a keen interest in research that will have practical outcomes for women, especially those in rural areas.

“I have lived and worked in the Warrnambool region for the past 15 years, so I’m aware of the challenges facing both women and support services in that setting.

“I hope women with children will share their experiences so other women in similar situations will benefit from what we learn,” said Ms Hines.

The confidentiality of participants is guaranteed and no identifiable information will be published. A small thanks in the form of a shopping voucher will be given to all participants.

Women interested in participating can contact Rochelle Hine on 5565 8043 or